Hits back and forth across the GM net

18 Jun, 2008 10:20 AM
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Members of the Japanese Consumers Union prepare their notes before making a presentation at the GM forum at Williams.
Members of the Japanese Consumers Union prepare their notes before making a presentation at the GM forum at Williams.

THERE was little common ground between sides arguing if genetically modified (GM) and conventional crops should co-exist in WA, during a forum at Williams last week.

It appears that if the GM moratorium in WA is lifted, growers wanting to market their canola as non-GM would have to test it to prove it had no more than 0.9pc GM contamination, and this could be time consuming and expensive.

It could also rule out the non-GM canola market in Japan which, according to representatives of the Japanese Consumers Union at the Williams meeting, did not want any GM contamination.

Namiko Ono, from the No GMO Campaign run by the union, said it would make no sense to import non-GM canola from WA if its producers were starting off with 0.9pc GM material in their seed.

"If you recognise 0.9pc GM content for non-GM canola as non-GM market then you are going to be disappointed, " she said.

"What we require is zero per cent GM."

The 0.9pc "adventitious presence" (AP) was agreed to by Australian industry groups, including WAFarmers, when the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) taskforce set up GM canola protocols for Australia.

Supply chain chairman on the GRDC's taskforce and former CBH chairman Rob Sewell said the 0.9pc was a world GM protocol established in Cartagena 10 years ago and accepted by most markets around the world.

He said the dropping of the moratoria in eastern Australia in November came faster than anticipated and the only weakness in the protocols was a lack of a rapid and cheap testing process for storage and bulk handlers.

Mr Sewell, who was on a panel at the meeting, said receiving companies had identified there would be increased production and profit with GM canola and were prepared to use some of the profit to pay for testing to at their sites.

"The receival companies are all committed to becoming involved in fast testing facilities to ensure non-GM is non-GM," he said.

Rose Crane, who chaired the meeting, said the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF) had informed eastern states growers who wanted to market non-GM canola that they had to "ensure the status" of their seed before planting.

But the information, disseminated through a GRDC magazine, came too late for many growers who had already planted their crops.

Network of Concerned Farmers national spokeswoman Julie Newman, also on the panel, said the only reliable test available was the PCR test which would cost about $1000 and take about two weeks to get the results.

"To be sure growers are not above the 0.9pc the farmers will have to park the vehicle up to two weeks and pay $1000 for the test," Mrs Newman said.

Under the protocols conventional canola that goes into a GM silo at harvest will not need to be tested and this could prove easier than paying for tests and accepting liability on canola recalled due to GM contamination.

The protocols say GM canola growers must provide a five-metre buffer zone between their crops and those of their neighbours while farmers opting to market their grain as non-GM will have to ensure it contained no more than 0.9pc GM material.

Ms Ono said it was wrong that non-GM canola growers should be held liable for contamination because they were there first.

"Nobody has the right to stop anybody from doing what they have been doing in the past and if somebody comes along and prevents them from doing it then really it is their problem and their liability that should be on the line," she said.

"We think it is inhumane that anybody should come and pollute your field and then it becomes your responsibility for what has happened."

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